Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Recordings of the week

June 30, 2007

Spire 1

Connector by Richard Serra at Segerstrom Concert Hall, OC
Photo: mine 2007
Spire 2

BT Tower, London
Photo: mine 2007
18 hours and several thousand miles after starting out I have arrived in London and the start of two weeks of opera and theater both here and in Munich. Skies are grey, and, living in Southern California, it’s been so long since I’ve seen rain it feels like I’m on another planet despite the ever-increasingly similarities between cities all over the world. (With all of yesterdays foiled bomb plot news, it was strangely comforting to hear that TV news commentators are just as inane here as back in the states.)

My recordings this week are two operas I was listening to on my rather pleasant flight on the way over. First, is another wonderful Lorraine Hunt Lieberson recording from 1996 of Handel’s Ariodante under the direction of longtime collaborator and friend Nicholas McGegan on Harmonia Mundi. A true Baroque wonder.

Someone asked me when I plan an extended trip like this, how do I decide what to see? I told them that it is usually structure around a single event or two that are very high priorities and the rest is filled in from things that just happen to be going on in the neighborhood at the same time. This summer, one of my big goals was to see Unsuk Chin's new Alice in Wonderland opera in Munich. But the other was to see a true master, Sir Charles Mackerras doing what he will probably always be best remembered for - altering the history of 20th century opera by brining the masterworks of Janácek to everyone outside of the composer's homeland. The best kept secret in opera was long-ago brought out into the open, and I desperately wanted to get to see Mackerras conduct one of the Janácek operas he championed before he retires. What better place than here in Britain. As a warm up, I revisited his landmark recording of Kát'a Kábanová he made with Elisabeth Söderström, which is available separately and as part of a box set with all of the Mackerras' Janácek opera recordings.

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